A COMMEMORATIVE plaque will be installed and 4,000 homing pigeons released on Portland this weekend to commemorate the role played by the birds during the world wars.
To mark 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War, the Midlands Flying Club asked local stone carver Neville Walbridge to create the stone plaque to honour the bird and its contribution to the war effort.
Now the plaque is finished, Mr Walbridge will hand it over to the flying club on Saturday shortly after 9am behind the Heights Hotel. At the same time 4,000 homing pigeons will be released and will make their way back to the Midlands.
The flying club will then visit the French town of Carentan to hand over the plaque, in front of representatives from the British Embassy and the Armed Forces and another 6,000 homing pigeon will be released and will fly back to Britain. It will replicate the crossing completed by the birds during the wars when British fighter planes were shot down.
Mr Walbridge, 76, has been carving stone for more than 50 years and the plaque is based on the most famous pigeon from the war, called Paddy.
Mr Walbridge said: “At the same time the pigeons are released I will be presenting the plaque to the Midlands National Flying club, it should be quite a spectacle.
“It took me about eight hours in total to finish the plaque.
“The pigeons were a secret during the Great War so not much is known about them, but they saved thousands of lives.
“More than 10,000 pigeons were used by the British alone and 32, more than any other animal, were awarded the Dickins Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, so that just shows the impact they had on the war.
“I’m a pigeon fancier myself.
“I’m in charge of the liberation site on Portland so when they first approached me four months ago to create the plaque, it was quite an honour.”
Tony Whitehouse, chairman of the Midlands Flying Club, said it was important pigeons were commemorated.
He said: “Pigeons won more Dickins medals than any other animal. They were very important during both of the wars.
“They did a fantastic job and I think it is very important that we remember them. We are looking forward to coming down to Portland and the village of Cartenan played a big role in the war so it will be nice to go.”